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Nano in textiles and clothing

Looking into the future

Here are some of the ways in which nano may be used in textiles in the future:

Electronics you can wear

Currently microelectronics (bigger than nano) are used to weave devices like mobile phones or MP3 players into clothes that you can buy. But nanotechnologies are likely to be used by the next-generation of wearable electronics.

Right now, the electronics in these clothes are just mounted onto the surface of the material. But with nanomaterials, like carbon nanotubes that can conduct electricity and can be woven like thread, it is possible to fully integrate the electronics into the fabric.

Silky coatings

If you use a hair conditioner, then you are coating each hair with a nano layer of chemical that makes it feel softer. There is progress being made to permanently coat fabrics with similar agents to make cotton and other materials feel like silk.

Chameleon clothing

Other development work is in hand to have colour changes in our clothing, not just for army camouflage clothing, but for fashion wear. There are a number of ways of doing this and some of the ideas involve carbon nanotubes, which are like nano-sized whiskers that have the ability to conduct electricity and heat.

This gives opportunities to change the colour of textiles in different circumstances; to connect fabrics up to provide messaging or even print solar panels on the backs of jackets!

Self-cleaning sofas

Nanoparticles or nano layers of titanium dioxide (the same stuff used in sunscreens to prevent skin damage) are being used in products such as self-cleaning glass, and coatings for buildings to break down environmental pollution.

The way they work is that the combination of sunlight and titanium dioxide breaks down dirt and pollution to harmless chemicals. There have been reports that textiles have been produced that similarly break down dirt and stains on textiles - so basically you put your stained sofa in the sun and it reacts with the light to break down the stains and cleans itself - or you hang your clothes out in the sun and bring them in clean!

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